Projet de mémoire, ECAL 2021


Professeur(s): Anniina Koivu

AUTHOR: Simona Alina Andone
TITLE: The Aura of Type Design

The Aura of Type Design stems from the necessity of creating a critical discourse around the type design discipline. In which cultural and social settings is type design embedded? This thesis explores some of the contexts in which type design manifests itself – from Instagram to institutions, exhibitions, archives, and so on. What effects do these manifestations have on perceptions about how type design works?


AUTHOR: Romain Tronchin
TITLE: To be seen not read
SUBTITLE: The formal expression of typography

Without even being conscious of it, I have always been interested in typography and its shapes. When I was a kid, I was fascinated by the numbers on football shirts. Later, it was graffiti, with its illegible letters. Today, it is the typefaces of designers like Herb Lubalin, Jean Alessandrini or Zuzana Licko that awaken my interest. All these typefaces have one thing in common: they are typefaces that are not meant to be read, but seen. Their formal aspect comes first, before their functionality. So, we can see these expressive typefaces as images before considering them as tools. This sentence by Herb Lubalin sums up this phenomenon well: “Sometimes you sacrifice legibility to increase impact.”


AUTHOR: Marcel Saidov
TITLE: The Telephone Directories of Total Design and Ladislas Mandel

SUBTITLE: Modernist Internationalism and Cultural Identity

By comparing the iconic phone book by Total Design with the typefaces and their application in telephone directories by Ladislas Mandel, I want to create a dialogue between traditionalism and modernism; internationalism and cultural identity. I will not only examine the differing design approaches, but also compare two opposing philosophies. In addition, I would like to investigate which kinds of technical knowledge gleaned from the design of telephone directories and their typefaces can still be of use today. By comparing two opposing ideologies of the past century, I will try to conduct a contemporary discourse on type and culture.


AUTHOR: Alberto Malossi
TITLE: Extraordinary Gentleman

SUBTITLE: The typefaces of Giovanni Mardersteig

History is something that I have always been keenly interested in. Luckily, I found a way to channel it into my work, which I feel is very much based on historical awareness. Especially as a type designer, the saying “standing on the shoulders of giants” is something that I think about daily: I see my practice as bound to both enshrine the memory of those who came before me, and to build upon their work. That is why I felt a deep connection with the typefaces of Giovanni Mardersteig (1892-1977). His work was always aware of the past, while somehow completely contemporary.


AUTHOR: Paul Christ
TITLE: Pixels, Geometry, Theosophy, Philosophy

In the following thesis, I will be taking a deeper look at geometry, theosophy and the pixel in the oeuvre of JLM Lauweriks (1864–1932). At the same time, I will reflect on the relationship between mysticism, philosophy and geometry in contemporary design through an interview with Dimitri Bruni from NORM, while conducting a short investigation of Jurriaan Schrofer’s work.


AUTHOR: Chiachi Chao
TITLE: Type Design in the Zeitgeist

Letters are shapes with intentions. A typeface is an instrument built to convey meanings and information. The design criteria for a typface are clear: it must facilitate the efficiency of the reading process, allowing the eyes to identify the image shape, then glide through the line as fast as possible. Since ‘reading’ and ‘seeing’ are two fundamentally different physical mechanisms, the functionality (readability and legibility) in types is always more important than the ‘style’ of letter-shapes given that text is meant for reading. Its form is determined by the condition in which the typeface intends to be applied. With this premise, type design draws a clear line between graphic design in which personal expression plays a significant role.


AUTHOR: Nicolas Bernklau
TITLE: Critical Regionalism in Type Design

SUBTITLE: A survey of moments in history when social, political and economic systems change in parallel with typography

My interest in researching typography and change was sparked by the local newspaper (Die Coburger Nationalzeitung) of my hometown in Coburg, Germany. Looking back through thirty years of issues (1914–1945) on microfilm at Landesbibliothek Coburg, I began trying to find out when the type changed from Fraktur to Antiqua. I realised that the shift took place not from one day to another, but as a continuous process over several months. I started to look into the topic of change in a wider sense. Where can you find alphabet shifts? How do these shifts work, and how do they affect us?


AUTHOR: Benedetta Bovani
TITLE: The role of intertitles
SUBTITLE: From a typographic necessity to a means of expression

Intertitles have been a topic of discussion throughout the more or less thirty years (1895–1930) in which they were largely used. When one would talk about these elements, it was usually to criticise them or to highlight their flaws. Indeed, intertitles were controversial. The use of the word, and especially the written word, in cinema – then a silent medium – was by most seen as unnecessary, even dangerous. Admitting that writing was necessary to the success of cinema was like admitting that silence was a deficit. Nevertheless, intertitles slowly became an essential element, that even today has left its trace in modern films.

The goal of this master thesis is to investigate and map the use of intertitles. Starting from their inception, when they were just a typographic necessity, to their prime – when they played an active role in the narration of movies and represented a means of expression as important as picture itself.


AUTHOR: Anne Seseke
TITLE: Barbara Radice & Fragments of Terrazzo (1988–1995)

Ever since I discovered post-modernist objects, I have fostered an ambivalent relationship to them. Their shape, patterns and materials. The more I researched, the more I found interesting writings, interviews and a lot of lesser-known projects. I scraped the shiny, plastic, colourful surface and discovered thought-provoking reflections on society.

In this master thesis I will approach my topic in a manner similar to the way in which Barbara Radice edited Terrazzo magazine (1988–1995): strong research roots tied together by a spiderweb of associations.


AUTHOR: Antonio D'Elisiis
TITLE: The Eldorado of Legibility

SUBTITLE: Optical sizes, variable fonts and accessibility in the digital environment

Designing aesthetically pleasing fonts that remain legible in various situations of use. Achieving this difficult balance has always been the ultimate goal in type design. Sought by punchcutters first, and later by the most modern type designers. These applied two fundamental practices to character design: optical size, and optical correction.

I will analyse both practices and how they have evolved over time – especially with the change of various technologies (printing, information support and visualisation, tools that allow the design of characters, etc.).

I will also analyse how optical corrections were applied, and why.


AUTHOR: Lucile Billot
TITLE: Colophons etc.
SUBTITLE: A collection of colophons, from medieval to contemporary, and the related stories they tell

This master thesis focuses on the narratives of colophons, and some related paratextual devices, such as design notes, acknowledgements etc. The thesis builds bridges between different periods, highlighting (for example) relationships between medieval and contemporary colophons.

At first sight, colophons seem to be a quite dry part of any book, as they only deal with credits. But they are not simply the ‘finishing stroke’ of a book. They also give clues and backdrops, both about the book itself (its content) and its context (in terms of design / production / circulation). This thesis explores the colophons’ evolution and transformations, as well as the contextual stories that are hidden in them, and the effect they can have on our understanding of a book.